This is my New Year's post, which was inspired as I stared at the bonfire you see here on our property during our Christmas Eve celebration. "How far I've come," I whispered to myself that night after everyone had left, standing over the glowing embers with my hands in my pockets. But this is a mantra I say often.
I remember one trip back to New Orleans in late 2006, during which time I was still displaced and re-establishing my life in Birmingham, Alabama, when someone I barely knew asked me when I was coming back to the city. My reply must have had something to do with Hurricane Katrina keeping me away, and I remember his response being almost as if he was under some spell, as if he was part of some communal group hug that the entire city was locked into during that period, one that prompted him to say, "That was a year ago!"
Yes, it had been a year ago at that point, but it was still fresh in the minds of those like myself who for whatever reason couldn't just "come back" to New Orleans. It was an ironic time of great desperation and tremendous growth as I took care of my ailing mother far away from anything we were accustomed to. I would in fact spend the months following the storm in a hotel room in Tuscaloosa, Alabama before moving farther north, and it is that balcony that I still consider the starting point to where I am today.
And today I am sober, with the only new comment I have on this subject in the new year being the realization that I would give anything to be this way for parents that are still alive. Even though I know they realized I was sick, how wonderful would it have been to engage them at this level of maturity (pushed into existence as the result of Katrina) rather than the semi-volatile person that they knew as their son? My mother would in fact have to endure this person even in her latter years, with the event of her death meeting some quota of piled-up tragedy that would help push me toward sobriety. Well, that's not entirely true. The decision, as is always the case for the recovering addict, is the decision of the addict alone. But the decision was a good one, kick starting a period of productivity and awareness that has filled up my journal pages exponentially. My journal for 2006 was 109 pages. My journal for the year 2011 is now well over 500. And how strange it is to think that the documented year following the storm had so little activity, or at least, activity worthy of writing down.
The city of New Orleans has long loosened that communal group hug, replaced instead by a version of the city perhaps not entirely as it was before, but close enough by the resident's standards. Therefore, it is more than possible for Jessica and I to "come back," and our future plans include just that. But for now I am revoking my "Katrina card," satisfied here, as are my people in New Orleans, that we are all where we need to be for the time being.
Those are my reflections. What are yours? Happy New Year.